I’ve taken a couple of photos of this addition to my new lawn free front garden a few different times since it was planted in April. I just never quite got the post done and then the next set of pics would look even better. Sealing the deal to feature it is that it has sailed through several 100°+ days since June 1st–a good sign that it may hold up to our hot, dry summer.
Poliomintha maderensis Lavender Spice™ is a member of the mint family and commonly called Mexican oregano. Not an oregano but it is native to eastern Mexico, requiring full sun in all but the hottest regions. It is a loosely upright evergreen shrub supposedly maturing at about a three foot mound. The long tubular flowers open lavender, deepen to purple, and finally fade to white; all three colors are present on the plant at the same time–much like the blue to white fading Brunsfelsia pauciflora ‘Floribunda’ we call yesterday-today-and-tomorrow.
It has grown steadily
I had no small sense of unease on my Denver trip with lots of new plantings in the front garden, many untested as yet to heat, but everything held up fine with no extra attention or water other than my normal irrigation schedule–whew! I’ll let you know how Lavender Spice™ fares as the summer wears on.
For two days our tour buses passed a lovely riverfront of some kind and a huge REI as we traveled back and forth from our garden tours in the communities surrounding Denver. I am not a camping and hiking kind of girl but both my adult sons are very into kayaking, fishing and all things outdoors so I decided a trip to what I soon learned is the flagship REI might give me some new street (forest?) cred with my boys. Who would have thought my second retail adventure in Denver would take me back to the birth of this mile high city?
It was overcast as I approached Confluence Park and REI, walking the mile or so northwest on 15th Street from my hotel. This photo is taken from East Confluence Park where there is a pretty shade pavilion and this great stone leaf in which was nestled a little boy wrapped in a wet towel, fresh from some play at the river’s edge.
In fact, every one of the several kiddos in that family had to take a turn in the leaf’s embrace before they all packed back into their vehicle and I got my turn.
Confluence and East Confluence Parks are two of Denver’s most urban parks. They encompass the green space at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek which is just north of Denver’s Lower Downtown historic district. During the Gold Rush it was at this junction that gold miners established a settlement for trade and commerce in 1858. When the gold panning no longer yielded riches, the settlement reinvented itself as the supply hub for new mines in the mountains. The city of Denver eventually grew out of this mining camp.
From the 15th Street bridge over the South Platte River, you can see quite far upriver. Shoemaker Plaza on the river’s bank is a venue for outdoor concerts and picnics. Biking and hiking trails run along the river. On this cloudy day there were a few folks relaxing on the banks and a big yellow dog who was having a great time.
REI’s 90,000 square foot Denver flagship store occupies the historic Denver Tramway Power Company building over looking Confluence Park and the river. It has its own Starbucks with a lovely outdoor seating area which was full of young people sipping their coffees and working on their tablets while enjoying at the fresh air and the sound of the rushing river.
The building housed the boilers and engines used to generate electricity for the streetcars which were the main link from Denver to the suburbs. Water from the river cooled the powerhouse’s turbines and there was easy access to coal due to adjacent rail lines. At the height of its operations, the Tramway Company owned 160 miles of track and more than 250 streetcars. The system was decommissioned in 1950 and the building was subsequently used as a warehouse and later, to house the Forney Historic Transportation Museum. REI acquired the property in 1998.
REI Co-op was born in 1938 of the need for a better source to obtain a quality ice axe for a reasonable price–which explains its choice of door hardware. Today it has 154 stores in 35 state and the District of Columbia and more than 13,000 employees, all dedicated to bringing consumers top quality outdoor gear and experiences.
REI’s commitment to the careful use of resources made the rehabilitation of this historic building a project which supports the environmental concerns of its members both through responsible business practices and direct support of conservation causes. There is an amazing amount of information about this rehab project online–just Google REI Denver Flagship store or REI Denver Tramway Power Company if you’d like to read more details.
Being a REI virgin, I thought I might participate in whatever activities were going on in the store or pick up a small souvenir. I felt pretty foolish asking some passerby to snap my photo in front of the store. More so, letting anyone else see me taking a selfie in front of the store!
Ok, so maybe experientially this might not be for me–the 40 foot tall Pinnacle. Although I did find out that a class was available for beginners after which I could have my first pint of beer free at Denver Beer Company.
Maybe a kayak is more my style…
Or one of these colorful sleeping bags…
From the second floor catwalks I could really get a sense of the structure of the building and what a great job REI did preserving what they could and making their needed improvements in a style that was complimentary to the inherent industrial look. My first REI so no way to know if they all look like this!
Feeling ever so much more outdoorsy than I did when I walked in, I took a pedestrian bridge back across the South Platte towards Centennial Park.
I ventured on to Centennial Gardens and saw some more fun outdoor public art on my way back to the hotel–another post for all that.
Six hundred tons is the tally for the Colorado sandstone used to build the walls, ponds and waterfalls in the garden of Tatiana Maxwell. This post will be photo rich–every time I went through the 75+ pictures I took of this beautiful and peaceful property trying to decide what I could eliminate…well, you get the idea!
The Maxwell home is on about 1/2 acre corner lot in the Old North Boulder neighborhood and was completed in 2010. Tatiana’s original vision for her garden was a more traditional English cottage garden but brainstorming with a friend, Thea Alvin of myEarthwork and local permaculturalist Marco Lam opened her eyes to more possibilities. Even after reading a bit about permaculture I am still not sure what its principles are but here’s how I’m going to sum it up: using perfect plants for the climate and only what works in the local environment and cultural conditions rather than starting your design process with the plants you want to use and trying to adapt your site and cultural habits to them.
We started our ramble on the driveway. I will admit I had been in the garden for almost 30 minutes before I realized there actually was a front door. I thought she had no back garden even as I was actually already in it. Let’s just walk right up the driveway which runs from street to property line near the back of one side of the lot.
Between the guest house/greenhouse and the fenced vegetable garden is the family’s handy bike storage. Tatiana’s plan was to create an urban oasis where she would be “cocooned in nature.”
The two vegetable gardens produce a broad array of vegetables through three seasons. There are also fruit trees and berry bushes plus a couple of fig trees which live in the greenhouse.
The garage is tucked on the east side of the driveway with a detached studio then nestled between the house and the driveway, a narrow walkway separating the two. As with the greenhouse and gardens no detail was spared on this charming little building.
This colorful trio lights adds interest to a very narrow planting space between the studio and the driveway. I believe the upper left is a contorted filbert, Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’; upper right is one of the lime leafed barberries; below them is a red hot poker plant.
The front door of the studio is protected by a unique glass and iron awning. The door frame has this southwestern influenced tile work and the same rustic wood found on the window frames.
Yes, it’s true that I’ve been basically hanging out on the driveway til now. Let’s dive deep into the garden!
Tatiana Maxwell wanted to have a garden space in which she could host events for causes she is passionate about and the broad lawn provides ample space several hundred people to be seated.
The entire south side of the lot is enclosed with a massive very high stacked stone wall which turns the corners on both the east and west sides, allowing for several elevations of planting places on the interior of the walls. These beds are lushly panted with a variety of foliage colors, shapes, sizes and textures.
I literally stood mid-lawn and turned 180 degrees right to left to photograph the interior borders. They are well kept but not fussy–looks to me like a gardener who likes to be out in her garden snipping and picking here and there.
It was not until I had walked out far enough to take this photo that I recognized that this patio was not the front of the home–that we had actually entered at the back of the property.
I love this somewhat understated front entrance into a home which I’m sure is very large and beautifully appointed. It says to me that this home is about Tatiana’s connection to her family, garden, neighbors and friends rather than that she needs a “grand entrance” to make a statement about who she is to those who don’t know her. Again, old world and international details set the tone.
It’s time to walk back to our buses, still parked by the driveway. Now I get to see what I would have normally taken in first on any garden tour–the street view. Behind its stacked sandstone walls, Tatiana’s home is virtually invisible except for a the space open to the lawn on the east side.
I found both this home and its garden very appealing. I have never seen so much rock in any other garden anywhere but many lush plantings soften it throughout. Equally suited to a young family or empty-nesters, this property could meet most everyone’s desire’s for ornamentals and edibles plus a wide swathe of lawn. Gardens that look so casually beautiful are not without maintenance but the permaculture nature lends itself to the need for less water, less fertilizer and lower energy requirements. Every garden requires maintenance and I think working in this one would be a great pleasure.
Mary and Larry’s rural Niwot garden occupies about a quarter of their 5 acre lot. With roads on two sides of their property and fields on the other two, you couldn’t ask for a more serene location. Unless you could also have an unobstructed view of the Rocky Mountains–did I mention that they enjoy that also?
Adding to their sense of privacy, a long driveway well treed on both sides brings us to their neat 70s ranch home. Mary notes in her garden profile that they started their garden in about 2011 challenged with bindweed, thistle, quack grass, dying aspen trees and clay soil. I don’t even know what those first three things are but I’m sensing they are not good.
The barn takes on a quasi desert look with this colony of shapely yuccas. Larry recounted that plants in this group have all descended from a small one he found out in the field and stuck in the dry ground. When asked what species of yucca they were (as garden bloggers do) he replied dryly, “field yuccas”.
This sprightly little pine had a spot just at the end of the field yuccas. It is one of the lodgepole pines, Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ and should reach 12 ft. high and 8 ft. wide and sports those new bright yellow needles for about two months each spring. Although this pine was new to me it would not be the last time I saw it during my Denver stay.
Mary’s front porch adjacent plantings were colorful and traditional–roses, salvia, and a number of other low fillers not yet in bloom.
It was impossible not to gawk at the exquisite woodwork around the front door, not at all usual for the style and age of the home. Larry shared that one of Mary’s many endeavors had been dealing in European antiques and that this piece was from a French cathedral.
The garden slopes down at the end of the home and as we descend the stairs, Mary’s numerous fairy gardens, both sun and shade, come into view.
At the northwest corner of the garden work began in 2011 to add privacy from the road and increase bird habit. The design was done by Lauren Ogden Springer, an internationally known garden rock star who lives and gardens in nearby Ft. Collins. She and her husband, Scott, have written two books together: Waterwise Plants forSustainableGardens (Timber Press 2011) and Plant-Driven Design (Timber Press 2008). Lauren also authored The UndauntedGarden: Planting for Water-Resilient Beauty (Fulcrum Publishing 2011). She is currently overseeing the planting of a newly designed public garden named the Undaunted Garden at The Gardens at Spring Creek which is on our tour itinerary. The Scripter privacy screen contains over 60 trees and shrubs planted with the help of their backhoe and 600 blue grama and little bluestem grasses. To deter the weeds and keep the new plantings moist they were covered with free mulch from tree contractors. Now established, the area is only watered about four times per year.
In 2012, Larry prepped the area behind their home which was destined to become their own personal prairie meadow using 800 pounds of alfalfa pellets and 10 cubic yards of compost, working it into existing clay soil with his tractor. With Lauren Springer Ogden’s meadow design in hand, Mary spray painted the ground, laying out the matrix of plants, section by section.
From Mary’s garden profile, “Over a period of three weeks, we planted 1,800 plants, including 70 types of perennials, shrubs, native wildflowers, and 13 types of grasses. In the fall of the same year, we planted 1,500 bulbs–daffodils, camassias, tiger lilies, eremurus, gladiolus and various alliums plus many flowers for cutting.” Using a shovel and a wheelbarrow, Larry spread 25 tons of pea gravel around all the precious plants to deter weeds from the hayfield and retain moisture. They had realized their goal of having a prairie meadow with a view of the Rockies.
Keep in mind that this meadow was covered with snow a short three weeks ago. While it is mostly green now, it has many diverse plant colonies which will come into bloom throughout the summer and probably reach its peak in August.
This prairie meadow under the big Colorado sky lies not much more than a hay field away from the Lagerman Reservoir. Mary had laid out several bug spray options for us on the deck and you only had to venture out into the meadow to understand why–it was swarming with mosquitoes. Many of us, including me, just weren’t able to spend much time photographing plant groupings because you couldn’t stand too long in one spot before they found you!!
This striking bird bath was one of my favorite meadow elements. Mary shares that the ever changing meadow landscape is full of life year-round, including hundreds of birds. The entire meadow is a certified Pollinator Habitat, feeding wild bees and the bees from neighboring farms.
Viewing the meadow from the southwestern end of the back garden. This area is shaded and planted with many traditional shade loving species.
The shaded back deck is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the view of the meadow and the Rockies beyond.
The back deck bears witness to another part of Mary’s collecting life when she dealt in cowboy and western items. This vintage Americana seems just right for Colorado decor.
This delightful photographic essay on the meadow development which also included photos of the Scripter’s family and friends was available for us to enjoy.
Although the meadow is now well established, the Scripters concede that no garden is ever done. A meadow this size requires significant maintenance with weeds, weather and critters all being unpredictable factors from year to year. Regardless of the work involved to maintain their stunning long range view from the meadow to the mountains, they express that they are very grateful to live here. I am very grateful that Mary and Larry were willing to share their garden with us.
On my first day walkabout I stumbled on one of Denver’s newest cool hang outs in the LoDo/Ballpark area, the Alley at the Dairy Block.
Debuting in April 2018, the Alley at the Dairy Block is downtown Denver’s first “activated” alley. The alley stretches from 18th to 19th street between Blake Street and Wazee Street.
The alley was once home to Windsor Dairy, the premier creamery in Denver dating back to the 1880s. So what’s an “activated alley”? The length of the alley has been cleaned up, repaired, and decorated with murals and other outdoor art.
Most important for LoDo Denver residents is that now it has a common consumption liquor license which allows visitors to purchase a drink at one of its trendy bars or restaurants and carry it along with them to visit with friends at one of several outdoor patios or even peruse the shops. Signage on both ends of the alley reminds visitors that their alcoholic drinks cannot leave the alley.
One corner of the Wazee Street end is anchored by the Milk Market, a unique food hall concept which opened in June 2018 with three bars and a dozen food vendors–also a very engaging sign on the alley side. I can imagine the success of this venture will spur development of other activated alleys throughout the historic district. Check out the happy hour or nightlife the next time you are in Denver. When you are thinking about dining at a restaurant you could find in your own home just because it’s easy or familiar, why not try someplace new and encourage Denver’s entrepreneurial spirit?
THE GARDEN OF CAROL AND RANDY SHINN IN FT. COLLINS
Newcomers in 2006 to the Front Range, Carol and Randy Shinn retired to Ft. Collins and have been experimenting in their garden ever since. Both are artistic by nature, Carol in the visual arts and Randy in musical composition. It was not until the next day that I became aware that this was the garden of THE Carol Shinn–a rock star in the art quilting world who is internationally known for her photo-based free motion machine stitched images.
Their new Colorado home came with an outdated lawn, uninteresting flower borders and juniper everywhere, including block the front windows. The new garden has a small puddle of lawn and now the perennials, conifers and collection of ground covers winding through and tucked amongst the rock paths and large rock outcroppings are the stars of the show.
Rock gardening has become Carol’s passion after adding the first granite and sandstone boulders to anchor her developing beds. She says the growth of the garden has been organic rather than that of a rigid structure based on a plan. Her experimentation with a bed of horizontal layers of sandstone, then later a bed of vertical basalt has cemented her love of crevice gardening–no pun intended.
The largest of the crevice gardens as viewed from several angles.
All of the crevice gardens are anchored with conifers which will, in time, provide more vertical interest. A wide variety of alpine ground covers and perennials are tucked in all the crevices. Colorado natives make their presence known everywhere. So much of this plant material is unfamiliar to me but I’m sure if I’d had a decent alpine/steppe plant reference book I could make sense of it. This was not the only garden we visited that compelled me to text my husband the message, “I need more rocks!”–by the end of the Fling I was texting simply, “What I said before, DITTO.”
This most recently planted crevice garden was designed by Kenton Seton, a rising star in this gardening style. Along with this bed Carol is developing a collection of miniature conifers. Central California gardeners tend to have conifer lust and so it’s unimaginable to me being able to grow both full-sized and miniature selections–other than a few pines, our dry air just crisps most conifers to brown sticks.
Carol’s gardening goals have grown organically also. Their pick of Ft. Collins as their retirement home was, in part, due to the belief that water was more plentiful here than other nearby cities. Her original garden goal was to create the beautiful and lush perennial garden we all covet in magazines and garden catalogs. Many of her original plantings, including a huge collection of daylilies from Randy’s father, remain but are gradually being replaced as needed with more xeric plants.
A narrow brick path leads into the back garden which has more traditional elements, especially in the shaded areas like this one along the fence line. Hostas, hardy geraniums and hellebores are seen here.
On the opposite side of the path, creative pots combined with diverse foliage colors light up the shade.
As the tree cover gives way to open sky another arch forms the perfect frame for the Shinn’s rusted iron water feature.
This island of plantings buffer the house from the lawn and sunnier garden areas.
In the open and sunny center, conifers and sun loving perennials thrive. Multiple paths using a variety of hardscape materials give the garden floor interest and easy access to working beds many vantage points.
A vegetable garden occupies the back corner of the garden, mostly obscured from the view from the house and main patio area.
This large raised bed runs almost the length of the back of the house, allowing for trees and shrubs to become garden walls. We had a sudden rainstorm a few minutes after this photo was taken and I was sitting at the far end where you can see fellow blogger Noelle already resting–we did not get a drop of rain through the tree cover while other standing on the back patio were soaked.
This garden is the one of the best looking works in progress I have ever seen. There is tremendous plant diversity–running the gamut from peonies to cacti and everything in between. It all is working well together supported by an eclectic group of year round structural elements including a diverse selections of conifers and a few deciduous trees.
The stress that goes along with making your garden ready for a tour was not borne by this little copper haired neighbor–a budding entrepreneur who had set up a lemonade stand (plus cookies) hoping for thirsty garden bloggers. We gave her lots of business and I’m sure she was sad to see us go!
I went for a short ramble looking for some chic shopping and ended up finding Denver’s most historic block.
As in many large cities, Denver is a mix of very old and very new architecture.
First, Larimer Square is not square–it is Larimer Street between 14th Street and 15th Street. The historic building in the first photo is on the corner of Larimer and 15th Streets. If you are sure where it begins just look up to the cafe lights strung across the street for the entire block. I imagine it is beautiful after dark.
About mid-block I saw this sidewalk sign in front of a small store front and found a wealth of interesting information inside.
The long and very narrow space is a museum of Larimer Square’s past down one wall and an open forum on its future on the opposite wall. Denver City was established when a group of men crossed Cherry Creek and constructed log cabins to claim the land. Additional panels trace Denver’s history for the next 100 years.
I learned that by the 1960s the area had fallen into disrepair and many of the historic buildings were slated for demolition. Dana Crawford (of the Union Station Crawford Hotel family) started a campaign to acquire the buildings and design an adaptive reuse plan which ultimately resulted in the Square as it is today.
But nothing ever remains the same and additional development plans for the area are being contemplated. This long butcher paper banner offers Denver residents an opportunity to weigh in on what Larimer Square will look like going into the future. Although it’s hard to see in the photos, an orange dot is placed next to each comment as it is transcribed into the public comment ‘archive’ to be considered by the developers and the city.
Back out on the street I wandered into a tunnel called the Kettle Arcade which leads to a lovely courtyard restaurant.
As I turn to walk back I realized the ceiling was painted with images depicting characters in Colorado history. I learned that the scenes were add to the arcade of the 1873 building in 1988 by a California company, Evans & Brown, which specializing in murals. The murals are a segue to tales about state history and include Chief Hosa, Annie Oakley, Soapy Smith, William Larimer and Robert Speer.
At about 12 o’clock in the photo is Chief Hosa who was the Chief of the Southern Arapahoes. Lower left of him is Annie Oakley riding two stallions bareback and proudly waving a 32 star American flag. Below Annie O. is Robert Speer, the first mayor of Denver, sitting on a rock next to Soapy Smith who is playing music as he looks to the Rockies. Soapy Smith is know as the king of the Western con men. He created his own con game in which he stood on a corner and sold cubes of laundry soap wrapped in paper for $5, telling prospective buyers that he had hidden $50 in every few cubes. General William Larimer is to their left, wearing his Yankee uniform and sitting by his cabin.
Walking the short block on both side I enjoyed all the delightful and unique signage for the the shops and chef-driven restaurants–no fast food or chain restaurants in sight.
So as to not betray my content focus on gardening–a lovely window box!